Nantes is a city in the West of France. Once the capital city from which the Dukes of Brittany ruled their kingdom, today the former port town is best-known for its steampunk elephant and fantastical creatures roaming around the Île de Nantes, as well as its medieval heart. In other books, the French city is noted as being most famous for its status as the birthplace of Jules Verne… Here’s a quick guide to following in the footsteps of Jules Verne in Nantes!
Who was Jules Verne? (And introducing the city of Nantes)
Even if you’ve never heard of the iconic French writer before, you’ll surely know the legacy he left behind: that of steampunk. Characterised by its futuristic architectural features and fantastical, surrealist creations, some of Verne’s most famous works include Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Nantes itself is the sixth-largest city in France and is the gateway to the impressively beautiful Loire Valley. Once the destination from which the Dukes of Brittany ruled their Kingdom, today the city is just a few hours train ride away from Paris and is home to its own international airport. Perfect for a European weekend break, here’s your guide to the best of Nantes hotels.
Otherwise, you should know before you go that this off the beaten path French destination is best-known for its towering cathedral (that’s two metres taller than Notre Dame de Paris), lively Bouffay district, and wealth of fantastic day trips from the city. Luckily, Nantes is also perfect for bibliophiles, with a wealth of independent bookshops to be found across the city.
Birthplace of Jules Verne, 4, cours Olivier de Clisson
Marked by a plaque above the door, it’s worth noting that though No.4 is the birthplace of Jules Verne, it’s now a private residence and can only be viewed via its exterior. Close to one of the major tramway lines that snake their way through the city, the property can be found on Île Feydeau.
Perhaps most interesting of all, is the fact that floating islands make frequent appearances in Verne’s books. Verne was born to Pierre Verne and Sophie Allotte on the on 8 February 1828. However, the family were not to live at No. 4 for long, for they moved to 2, allée Jean Bart just a year after Jules’ birth.
Église Sainte Croix: Location of Jules Verne’s baptism
The church where Jules Verne’s parents were married was also the very same church where the famous Frenchman himself was baptised. Located in the heart of the Bouffay district, a maze of medieval streets filled with café, bistros, and bars, the church is constructed after the Greek Orthodox style.
Free to enter and enjoy, the church boasts the largest bell in the city, which tolls frequently, and is topped by an ornate clock. Step inside and you’ll soon also discover plenty of stunning stained glass windows. Nearby, the Passage Sainte-Croix is easily one of the best-kept secrets of Nantes and hosts unusual art exhibitions on a regular basis.
Musée Jules Verne, 3 rue de l’Hermitage
Streets away from the historic city centre and overlooking the banks of the river, just across from Île de Nantes, the Jules Verne Museum is dedicated to Verne’s life and works. Though not as well-reviewed as some of the other Nantes attractions featuring the famous author, this cultural space was opened in 1978 so as to mark the 150th anniversary since the birth of Verne himself.
Today, the small Verne Museum is open from Monday through to Saturday at varying hours (check on the Nantes Tourisme website for further information here). If you’re looking to visit a number of Jules Verne in Nantes attractions, especially the paid locations, then you may well want to invest in a Pass Nantes, which will give you entrance into many of the city’s major attractions. Get all the details here.
Fresque Jules Verne (Mural)
Wander through the heart of Nantes for any given amount of time and you’re sure to stumble upon a mural or two. But perhaps one of the largest, which also happens to be dedicated to Jules Verne, can be found along rue de l’Echelle and was created by Jean-Yves Jodeau.
Fourteen metres in height by twelve tall, it’s hard to miss this immense mural when strolling through the city, not far from Basilique Saint-Nicolas. The wall painting features a portrait of Verne, as well as several fantastical machines and images from Verne’s childhood in Nantes.
Marvel at Les machines de l’île
Straight out of a Jules Vernes novel, the machines roaming across the Nantes isle which is surrounded by two branches of the Loire River are fantastical, impressive, and have single-handedly put Nantes on the world tourism map thanks to great critic reviews and several tourism prizes.
Since 2007, the La Machine production company has been producing impressively large constructions and fantastical mechanical creations on the Isle of Nantes. Housed on the former shipyards of Nantes, projects of note include the 12 metre elephant on which 49 passengers can be transported across the island, the Heron Tree which is a metallic and elevated forest, and the almost 25 metre high Marine Worlds Carousel.